Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from Ben Bradshaw MP, Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the Chairman

  When the above mentioned Explanatory Memorandum was considered by Sub Committee D on 9 November 2005, it was retained under scrutiny pending further developments. I am writing to update you on progress on this dossier.

  The Committee may wish to be aware that during the UK Presidency officials chaired five working groups and good progress was made in resolving a number of key areas of concern to Member States. I attach a letter to interested parties from my officials issued on 26 January 2006 outlining the key outcomes of negotiations during the UK Presidency. A further three working groups were held during the Austrian Presidency under Finnish Chairmanship (as part of a Presidency twinning exercise) and the Finnish Presidency have indicated their intention to submit the dossier for political agreement or adoption in September 2006.

  Turning to the specific concerns of the Government, we pressed hard for Gyrodactylus salaris (Gs) to be included in the list of non-exotic diseases in Annex III of the proposal but a majority of Member States opposed that and our fall back negotiating position to include specific reference in the body of the draft Directive to the importance of controlling Gs in order to safeguard wild salmon populations. However, we succeeded in amending the generic provisions in Article 43 of the draft proposal permitting national provision for diseases like Gs not listed in the draft Directive where they constitute a significant risk to wild aquatic animals as well as aquaculture animals. Provision has also been made in Recital 29 and Article 63 of the proposal for the continuation of current safeguard measures for Gs and certain other diseases granted in Commission Decision 2004/453/EC, pending the adoption of measures under the new Directive. Moreover, Commissioner Markos Kyprianou has, in correspondence with UK Members of the European Parliament, declared that it is the intention of the Commission within the framework of the draft Directive to ensure future protection of UK rivers against Gs in line with the internationally accepted risk mitigation currently laid down in Decision 2004/453. We have therefore succeeded in maintaining current health guarantees and a mechanism for their continuation.

  In order to address concerns about a lack of transparency in devolving to a Member State the facility to declare zones and compartments within its territory disease-free, we succeeded in writing into Article 50 of the proposal a mechanism whereby Member States will have 60 days to consider the evidence supporting the declaration of a disease free zone or compartment before that declaration can take effect. If Member States have significant concerns about the evidence, the period may be further extended by 30 days and, in the event of continuing concerns, the matter may be referred to arbitration under the auspices of the Commission. If the declaration is found to be based on defective evidence, provision has also been made to suspend it via comitology. This procedure should enable Member States, like the UK, with high fish health status, to ensure that movements of fish from newly declared disease-free areas are based on robust risk mitigation principles and requirements.

  The prime objective during negotiations has been to develop a proposal that is likely to present no greater risk of disease introduction to the wild and farmed environment than current controls. The new measure contains most of the necessary risk mitigation mechanisms to help achieve this including provision in Article 17 for preventing the spread of the listed diseases via species of fish capable of acting as vectors for those diseases. However, a number of areas remain to be elaborated by the secondary legislative process and the success of the new regime in terms of maintaining the high health status of the UK will depend on the progress officials are able to make in negotiating robust measures as part of that process once the Directive has been adopted.

  It was noted in the EM that the cost of the measure and its likely impact on businesses and government cannot be assessed fully at this stage because much of the detail of the new regime will be elaborated through secondary legislation to be adopted by the Commission. That remains the position. However officials involved in negotiations during this secondary phase are under instruction to minimise cost and adverse economic impact where it will be both practically possible and consistent with adequate risk mitigation to prevent disease transmission.

  The Committee may wish to know the outcome of Government consultations on the draft Directive. Officials wrote to stakeholders inviting comments on the draft Directive when it was published in August 2005. Comments were received from a number of interests including bodies representing environmental, aquaculture and ornamental trade interests. A number of comments were generally supportive but others were concerned that the new measures could result in a lowering of fish health standards. Discussions also took place with a range of stakeholders at meetings of the Scottish Executive's Aquaculture Health Joint Working Group and Defra's Committee for Aquaculture Health.

  Finally, the Government remains broadly content with the main thrust of the proposal and we are satisfied that we have achieved as much as we could in the time allocated for discussion on the proposals in Brussels.

10 July 2006

Annex A


  1.  The purpose of this letter is to provide an update on progress made during negotiations on the proposal for a new fish and shellfish health Directive, during the UK Presidency. As you may recall, I wrote on 25 August 2005 informing you of the publication of the proposal (COM (2005) 362, 11880/05) and inviting comments on it.


  2.  The proposal is designed to replace the current rules concerning the animal health conditions for the placing on the market of aquaculture animals and products in Council Directive 91/67/EEC, and minimum Community measures for the control of certain diseases in Council Directive 93/53/EEC and Council Directive 95/70/EC. It maintains many of the principles laid down in the current legislation and introduces the following:

    —  authorisation of aquaculture businesses;

    —  risk based animal health surveillance system;

    —  provision for centralised electronic recording of live fish movements within a Member State;

    —  provision for Member State to self declare-disease freedom for areas of their territory; and

    —  two lists of diseases (exotic/non-exotic) for EU wide control with provision for Member States to draw up national provisions for diseases not listed that constitute a significant risk for fish species or the environment (eg Gyrodactylus salaris).

  3.  The documents also include a proposal for amending Council Decision 90/424 on expenditure in the veterinary field to enable Member States to access funding for controlling/eradicating certain fish diseases via the European Fisheries Funding mechanism, and a Commission Staff Working Document on the potential impact of the proposals (11880/05 Add1).


  4.  Five Working Groups were held during the UK presidency. The first two were dedicated to a detailed read-through of the text and the Commission's supporting impact assessment to improve understanding of the various changes and new concepts. At the end of these sessions, Member States were invited to outline their key areas of concern. The most notable included—disease listing, risk based surveillance, traceability, placing on the market, compartmentalisation, self-declaration of disease-free areas, authorisation of businesses, introduction of non-susceptible species and expenditure in the veterinary field.

  5.  The three remaining meetings concentrated on finding solutions to major issues and there was consensus on the following:

    —  amendment to Article 4 to address concerns about the cost of "authorising" small scale farmers. The change will allow Member States to "register" rather than "authorise" such establishments engaged in the direct supply of small quanitities of fish for human consumption;

    —  amendment to Article 14 (with a consequential change to Article 8) to remove a requirement to record all fish movements internal to Member States on the Community's TRACES system, and provision for a legal basis to give Member States the option of requiring movements electronically on a national register;

    —  amendment to Article 15(1) no longer to require a movement standstill where there has been increased mortality or clinical outbreak of any disease within 31 days prior to placing on the market. The proposal will instead require a standstill in the case of clinical outbreak or any unresolved increased mortality at the time of placing on the market;

    —  amendment to Article 50 (with consequential changes to Articles 59 and 61) to specify the procedure by which Member States may in future self-declare freedom from disease for a zone or compartment so that there is sufficient oversight of the process by the Commission and all other Member States; and

    —  amendment to Annex V Part II to clarify the process for seeking approval of compartments in the coastal zone to overcome difficulties relating to marine strains of certain diseases occurring in wild fish populations; and provision for the developments of standards on the inactivation of pathogens in water for use in disease free compartments.

  6.  A number of changes have been made to the text of the draft Directive to incorporate these amendments, a compromise proposal for Article 17 that has yet to be discussed and numerous editorial amendments. This latest version of the proposal (document 14117/2/05 Rev 2) may be accessed from the following internet link along with the original version of the proposals referred to in paragraphs 1 and 3 above:


  7.  Some of the key issues that remain include the disease listing (Annex III and Article 43), the outline of risk based animal health surveillance (Article 10 and Annex IV) and the treatment of non-susceptible species (Article 17). All three issues have already been discussed compromise proposals are being considered.

  8.  Working Groups will continue during the Austrian Presidency under Finnish Chairmanship (as part of a Presidency twining-exercise). At least three further Working Groups are scheduled during February and March and there is likely to be pressure for political agreement on the dossier by the summer.

Annex B

Anglers Conservation Association Isle of Man Fish Processors Association
Angling FoundationJohn West Foods Ltd
Angling Trade AssociationJoint Nature Conservation Committee
Animal Transportation AssociationLacors
Association of London GovernmentLandauer Seafoods Ltd
Association of Port Health Authorities Leatherhead Food Ra
Association of Salmon Fishery BoardsLocal Government Association
Association of Sea Fisheries Committees London Port Health Authority
Atlantic Salmon TrustManning Impex Ltd
Barton & HartMarr Foods Ltd
British Association of Canned Food Importers and National Angling Alliance
Distibutors/British Imports and Distributors National Association of British Market Authorities
AssociationNational Association of Fisheries and Angling
British Frozen Food FederationConsultatives
British Marine Finfish Association (BMFA) National Association of Specialist Anglers
British Ports AssociationNational Consumer Council
British Ports AuthorityNational Farmers Union
British Retail ConsortiumNational Federation of Anglers
British Trout AssociationNational Federation of Anglers, Fisheries and
British Trout Farmers Re-Stocking Association Conservation
British Veterinary AssociationNational Federation of Consumer Groups
British WaterwaysNational Federation of Fish Fryers Ltd
Burnham OysterNational Federation of Fishermen Organisation
Calshot Oyster Fishermen LtdNational Federation of Fishmongers
Carp SocietyNational Federation of Inland Wholesale Fish
Caviar House LtdMerchants
C-Export-LtdNational Federation of Sea Anglers
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health New England Seafood
OfficersNorthern Ireland Fish Processors and Exporters
Coarse Fish Farmers and Traders Association Association
(CFFTA)OATA—Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association
Cold Storage and Distibution Federation Pet Care Trust
Commercial Coarse Fisheries Association Prepared Fish Products Association
Consumer's AssociationProfessional Koi Dealers Association
Conway Mussel Fishermen's AssociationRay Seafoods Ltd
Country Land and Business AssociationSACN
Crown Estates OfficeSalmon and Trout Association
CWS (Trade Association)Sea Fish Industry Authority (SFIA)
English Carp Heritage OrganisationSeachill Ltd
English NatureSeafood Processors Association Ltd
European Anglers AllianceSevern Fisheries Consultative Council
FACT (Fisheries and Angling Conservation Trust Shellfish Association of Great Britain
Ltd)South West Rivers Association
Federation of British Aquarist Societies South West Wales Angling Federation
Federation of British PortsSpecialist Anglers' Alliance
Federation of British Wholesale Fish Merchants' Specialist Anglers' Association
AssociationThe Carp Society
Fish Producers OrganisationUK Association of Frozen Food Producers
Fish Veterinary SocietyUK Fish Merchants and Processors Association
Fishmonger's CompanyWater Companies Association
Food and Drink FederationWelsh Development Agency
Halal Food AuthorityWelsh Salmon and Trout Angling Association
Holmes Frozen Seafoods SpecialistWye Salmon Fishery Owners Association Gram Ltd
Independent Food Retailers' Confederation
Institute of Fisheries Management
Institute of Freshwater Ecology

Letter from the Chairman to Ben Bradshaw MP

  Thank you for your letter reporting on the progress of negotiations on a new Directive on the animal health conditions under which aquaculture animals and products may be placed on the market. Your officials kindly submitted a supplementary note setting out the current state of consultation with Stakeholders.

  Your letter suggests that you have made progress towards securing the objectives which your Department set out in its Explanatory Memorandum last autumn, though it does appear to have been something of an uphill process.

  The supplementary note provided by your Department records that there is a general acceptance among Stakeholders that the negotiating process has probably been taken about as far is realistically possible. On this basis, and noting that the Finnish Presidency proposes to submit a revised Directive, incorporating the compromises you have negotiated, for agreement in September, we are content to release this proposal from scrutiny.

20 July 2006

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